“As far as the other boy is concerned, this child has taken different bodily complexions in different yugas [millennia]. First of all He assumed the color white, then He assumed the color red, then the color yellow and now He has assumed the color black. Besides that, He was formerly the son of Vasudeva; therefore His name should be Vasudeva as well as Krishna. Some people will call Him Krishna, and some will call Him Vasudeva. But one thing you must know: This son has had many, many other names and activities due to His different pastimes.” (Garga Muni speaking to Nanda Maharaja, Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 1, Ch 8)
The Hindu religion today is generally equated with the idea of God having many different forms. All the various demigods and the innumerable incarnations show God’s immeasurable potency. Nevertheless, God is still one, and His original form is that of Lord Shri Krishna, with His direct expansion being Lord Vishnu, who then further expands into different incarnations. Since Krishna is God, His direct expansions, known as vishnu-tattva, are as good as God. This is the statement of the authorized scriptures such as the Shrimad Bhagavatam. This opinion is also shared by the great saints such as Vyasadeva, Narada Muni, and Hanuman.
Lord Chaitanya, Krishna’s incarnation as a brahmana some five hundred years ago, spoke in depth about the difference between Krishna and His various forms. This scientific knowledge is well documented in the book, Teachings of Lord Chaitanya. Krishna is the original, and then there are various types of avataras. There are manvantara-avataras, lila-avataras, guna-avataras, etc. Usually we associate the avataras with the various incarnations, ten of which are primary. Lord Rama was an example of an incarnation. The Lord came to earth in the form of a pious prince who was dedicated to dharma. He provided protection to His devotees by killing the unconquerable Rakshasa demon Ravana. Prior to that, Lord Narasimha Deva was another incarnation. Prahlada Maharaja, the five year old son of the demon Hiranyakashipu, was being greatly harassed by his father. The Lord came in the form of a half-man/half-lion in order to specifically kill Hiranyakashipu, while maintaining the sanctity of the boons given to him by the demigods. There are many other incarnations as well, and the historical accounts relating to their pastimes are found in all the major Vedic texts, which include the Puranas, Mahabharata, and Ramayana. God is so nice that He came to earth in these various forms so that future generations of devotees could have stories they could read and pastimes they could relish in.
Aside from appearing in the forms of various living entities, God takes other expansions as well. One of them is referred to as the Paramatma, or Supersoul. Each individual living entity is made up of a spirit soul, which is concealed inside of a material body. The soul is so small that its size is compared with that of 1/10,00th the size of the tip of a single hair. We can realize the presence of the spirit soul based on the symptoms of the material body. In fact, the event we know to be death, is actually just the spirit soul leaving the body. There is also a second soul residing in each living entity, known as the Supersoul, which is an expansion of God. Qualitatively, we are the same as God, but quantitatively we are different. For example, we may be conscious of the events of our current life since our spirit soul is contained inside of our body. God, however, is conscious of the events of all living entities since He exists inside of everyone. He knows not only the present, but the past and future as well.
Fortunate people reach a point in their life where they ask the question, “Why are we here?” This question alone is one of the reasons why people turn to God.
“O best among the Bharatas [Arjuna], four kinds of pious men render devotional service unto Me—the distressed, the desirer of wealth, the inquisitive, and he who is searching for knowledge of the Absolute.” (Bg. 7.16)
This inquisitiveness can be very beneficial since it can lead us towards the true meaning of life. This material world is a place full of miseries. Bad things are always happening to us and to others around us. We need only turn on the news to hear about the latest murders and terrorist attacks. If this place is so bad, why would God let us come here? This is a justifiable question.
This human form of life represents our best chance to reconnect with God. Other species of life, such as animals and plants, also have the Paramatma inside of them, but they have no intelligence to realize it. Cats and dogs are simply occupied with activities of eating, sleeping, mating and defending. Poor trees, they have it even worse. They have to remain standing for thousands of years, tolerating anything and everything thrown their way. They have an incredibly long life span, but sadly, they aren’t able to gain any benefit from all those days on earth.
Human beings are unique in that we have a high level of intelligence. We’re so smart that we can figure out that we are all eventually going to die. Life is indeed short, so we shouldn’t waste any of it on trivial activities. The human form of life is meant for connecting with the Paramatma, who is non-different from Krishna Himself. God can be realized in three distinct features: Brahman, Paramatma, and Bhagavan. Brahman is the impersonal effulgence of the Lord, sort of an energy that pervades everything. Mental speculators prefer to connect with this energy. Bhagavan is the original feature of God, referred to as the Supreme Personality of Godhead. As previously mentioned, this original form of God isn’t always easy to know and love, so the Lord decides to expand Himself into different forms that others can have an attachment to.
In this current age of Kali, the Lord has kindly incarnated in the form of His holy name. By chanting “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”, we come into direct contact with God. There is no difference between the Lord and His various names. One may constantly repeat the word water, but it doesn’t mean that water will appear on its own. God is not like that. Simply saying His name in a loving way will immediately give us association with Him. This is the true meaning of life.
Just as God incarnates in the form of His holy name, the Lord also expands Himself into devotees that preach. When someone who truly loves Krishna, speaks about Him to others, and explains the Supreme transcendental science, it is to be understood that God has incarnated Himself into that person. It is for this reason that the spiritual master, or guru, is given so much respect. He is Krishna’s bona fide representative, relaying information straight from Vaikuntha, God’s spiritual abode.
Sex is considered the highest form of material sense gratification. Above that however, is the feeling of bliss that comes through association with God. This is the elusive high that we are actually searching after. It can be acquired quickly by those who humbly submit themselves before the Lord. The true meaning of life is to become a devotee. If we are sincere servants of the Lord, He will incarnate in us, we will have direct association with Him, and we will always be happy.